The Return of the King


The Return of the King (1980)



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Movie Info

The second of Rankin/Bass' animated TV specials based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Return of the King plots the quest to defeat the evil wizard Sauron. Frodo, nephew of The Hobbit protagonist Bilbo Baggins, vows to destroy the Ring, even if it costs him his own life. He carries the Ring to the volcanic innards of Mount Doom. All this he does on behalf of good-guy Aragon, who will never be able to escape the dreaded land of Sauron so long as the Ring retains its evil powers. Orson Bean, who'd been the voice of Bilbo Baggins in the 1977 Hobbit cartoon special, returns to portray Frodo. Return of the King originally aired May 11, 1980.


Critic Reviews for The Return of the King

All Critics (15)

A joyless failure which has only the latent strength of Tolkien's fantastic imaginings to give it any merit whatsoever.

Dec 2, 2012 | Rating: 4/10 | Full Review…

Cartoon tale is darker, more complex than others in series.

Dec 15, 2010 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

McDowall is terrific

Feb 3, 2009 | Rating: 3/5

I love this. All of it. Although I adore what Peter & Co. did, I think this movie, for sheer atmosphere, slightly nudges out his Oscar-winner. Really.

Aug 14, 2005 | Rating: 5/5

The cartoon version isn't that bad, espcecially when they couldn't use the first two books in the trilogy.

May 29, 2004

Works even less well than The Hobbit, which really is a children's story… overbearing folk-ballad soundtrack doesn't even gesture lyrically to Tolkien's poetry.

Jan 30, 2004 | Rating: C | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Return of the King


Just a flat out weird interpretation of Lord Of The Rings, but this doesn't have the awesome roto-casting animation that the first one had. This definitely had the most singing in any non-musical ever, which makes the movie completely pointless and boring at times. I just don't know what was going on behind the scenes to make this adaption so odd and sadly it was all there was for 20 years.

Conner Rainwater
Conner Rainwater

Super Reviewer

The original animated movie covered the first 2 books. It wasn't perfect, but it was very interesting to watch in this post-Jackson era. The Hobbit also had some wonderful designs and interesting moments. Return of the King, is a poorly rushed and choppy completion for the animated saga. It looks very messy and the films points are skimmed over in hurried narration. It's an interesting watch, to see Lord of the Rings go so wrong.

Luke Baldock
Luke Baldock

Super Reviewer


I really enjoyed "The Hobbit" by Rankin/Bass, but thought this movie was a bit of an embarrassment. The animation used the odd Rankin/Bass style as the Hobbit, so I couldn't fault it too much. I found most of the songs painful to sit through. I did get a good chuckle out of the disco Orc song "Where there's a Whip..." The story was quite easy to follow; there was narration which nicely explained things. The end battle was less than spectacular. The Hobbits, Orcs and Gollum were good, but the Human characters failed to offer any engaging interactions. I think this was made for TV - to excuse the Bakshi film which should've been made.

Lafe Fredbjornson
Lafe Fredbjornson

Super Reviewer


So incredibly bad. At least the animated Lord of the Rings wasn't a musical. We can't say that here. Although "Frodo of the Nine Fingers" is a catchy tune.

Michael Gildea
Michael Gildea

Super Reviewer

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